| Recycling is not new to the city; over a century ago, peddlers collected old brass, tin, and lead, and especially rags from households. And during World War II, scrap metal and paper collections were key efforts on the home front. This timeline, however, begins in the 1970's, the era of “modern” waste management (or mismanagement). It was also the decade of the first Earth Day, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the realization that we can't just keep throwing it all away.
The city shuts down its three older incinerators at Fullerton and Ashland (Lincoln Park), 103rd and Doty (southeast side), and 34th and Lawndale (southwest side), as they do not meet the standards of the federal Air Quality Act of 1967.
Chicago's Northwest Incinerator – the world's largest municipal trash incinerator – goes into service. Actually located on the city's west (as opposed to northwest) side, at 740 N. Kilbourn, it burns about 20 percent of Chicago's garbage for the next 20 years.” 
The not-for-profit Resource Center, Chicago's oldest multi-purpose recycling center is established as a base for recycling and reuse work by community activist Ken Dunn. His first recycling efforts began in 1967-8 with pick-up and drop-off services in the Woodlawn and Hyde Park neighborhoods, and in 1972, with Chicago's first curbside collection in Hyde Park. After the Resource Center is founded, it expands to establish Uptown Recycling, to serve the north side of the city.
The city builds a $30 million refuse-derived-fuel (RDF) plant next to Commonwealth Edison's Crawford Generating Station. After two years of sporadic testing, the poorly designed plant ceases operations.
The Chicago City Council, under Mayor Harold Washington, passes a moratorium on the siting of new landfills within the city limits. The ordinance is passed in response to community pressure, including that of CAWD, or Coalition for Appropriate Waste Disposal, which later becomes the Chicago Recycling Coalition. Today, after multiple reauthorizations by the Chicago City Council, the moratorium is still in effect.
The Illinois Solid Waste Management Act (415 ILCS 20) is passed, which establishes a waste management hierarchy for the state from source reduction (at the top) through landfilling (at the bottom.). The legislation also creates a source of funding to promote recycling at a local level and mandates that certain state agencies set up recycling programs and purchase recycled products. The Illinois Department of Energy and Natural Resources (IDENR) is in charge of administrating the new legislation.
The Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act (415 ILCS 15) is passed, which sets recycling goals for all counties in the state. Counties can also divide themselves up into sectors to meet the demands of the legislation. (For example, Cook County is divided into northern, western, and southern sectors plus the City of Chicago.) The legislation mandates that each county with more than 100,000 residents or cities with more than 1,000.000 must submit their Solid Waste Plans by 1991 and reach a 25 percent recycling goal by 1996. The Illinois EPA is put in charge of administration; it also issues grants to help the counties develop plans.
The City of Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation conducts a limited recycling pilot in four wards. Glass and plastic bottles and metal cans are accepted, but newspaper is not. The city decides that the pilot is a failure, claiming the collected volume doesn't justify a citywide program and moves towards implementing the Blue Bag Program instead.
The Illinois EPA holds its first household hazardous waste collection in the state.
The Chicago Recycling Coalition launches a campaign against the proposed Blue Bag program after an analysis revealed likely problems with cost and quality. Waste Management Inc.'s role in developing the concept, and then securing the lucrative contract is also challenged.
The Chicago Recycling Opportunities Act is passed. It requires that by July 1991, recycling service be available to one-third of the city's low-density dwellings, to two-thirds by July 1992, and to all of them by July 1993. It also calls for Mayor Daley to appoint a coordinator for the efforts. (David S. Robinson, assistant commissioner at Streets and Sanitation was subsequently selected.) The ordinance was launched by CRC and sponsored by Alderman Bernie Hansen.
Landscape and yard waste are banned from Illinois landfills.
March 26, 1992
In spite of widespread community opposition led by the CRC, the City Council approves Chicago's Solid Waste Management Plan by a vote of 34-10. The plan includes the Blue Bag Program, a high priority on Mayor Daley's agenda.
January 1, 1995
The Chicago High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance (sometimes called the “Burke-Hansen Ordinance” after the sponsoring aldermen) goes into effect. It mandates that larger apartment buildings, offices, and companies (none of which are served by Streets and Sanitation trucks) set up recycling programs in conjunction with private haulers. 
The first loads of blue bags mixed with residential garbage are hauled by Streets and Sanitation trucks to the four designated sorting stations, managed and operated by Waste Management (WMX). The four stations are Medill, Northwest, 34th Street, and CID. The first three are owned by the city; CID is owned by WMX. For the first year of operation, the program's recycling rate is 5 percent.
Bowing to community pressure, the city ceases operation of the Northwest Incinerator. The CRC plays a significant role in this struggle as one of 25 environmental, health, and community groups that make up the coalition, WASTE, the Westside Alliance for a Safe Toxic-free Environment
Unable to separate out enough commodities (paper, metals, etc.) and segregated yard waste to reach the Illinois's 25 percent recycling goal, the city's sorting facilities begin to generate a new material called “screened yard waste,” which is raw garbage and loose yard clippings pressed together through screens. The resulting matter is land-applied to several farms owned by politically connected owners; then after the Illinois EPA forbids this use, it is used as daily cover on local landfills. Around 1999, most of it starts being taken out of state to Indiana, where it is land-applied to a farm called Back 2 Basics.
The operation of the City's sorting facilities changes hands from Waste Management to Allied Waste, which offers a lower bid to the City to manage the facilities. Three sorting facilities continue to be owned by the city; the fourth facility is owned by Allied. (This is its plant at 64th Street.) The processing of mixed waste and recycling remains the same.
Faced with a declining recycling rate, the city initiates a one-ward pilot program in February, where residents of the 47th ward are offered stickers to put on regular garbage or shopping bags to turn them into “recycling bags.” These can be used in place of the traditional blue bags. Then in June, a second pilot is announced, where Dominick's and Walgreens customers receive their merchandise in blue bags that they can use at home for recycling. Whole Foods starts offering blue bags in November. All of these pilots are criticized by the CRC, aldermen, and the media as ineffective band-aid solutions.
In 2004, the City of Chicago had over 87,000 tons of screened garbage (they call it “screened yard waste”) hauled to an Indiana farm called Back 2 Basics. Due to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune, the farm is temporarily shut down by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for illegal dumping, but then reopens. It is shut down again at the beginning of March.
The City begins a small pilot program in the 19th ward where two bins (one for recyclables, one for garbage) are placed behind each residence. The materials are collected by separate trucks and the recyclables hauled to a dedicated recycling facility. This is the type of program that the Chicago Recycling Coalition has been demanding for the past decade. The CRC supports the pilot program and continues to work for its expansion to all neighborhoods throughout the city.
The Chicago City Council passes an ordinance banning the expansion or siting of new landfills in city for the next 20 years. The ordinance was sponsored by Alderman John Pope (10th) and passed with overwhelming community support.
The City of Chicago announces that it will begin to phase out the blue bag program and replace it with source-separated recycling, with separate trucks hauling the different materials. Recyclables will be collected bi-weekly in new blue carts; garbage will be collected weekly from black carts; and for eight months a year, yard waste (in bags supplied by residents) will be collected each week. Illinois DCEO commits $8 million towards the purchase of new bins. The program is set to begin in February 2007.
The City opens its first permanent Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility on Goose Island, where Chicago residents can drop off materials several days a week year-round.
The 19th Ward is the first to receive new blue recycling carts for all households from single-family up through four units. Wards 5, 8, 1, 37, 46, and 47 come on-line from April through August.